Melania Trump speaks out against child separations at border: ‘Hate to see it’
Banglapress Online:First Lady calls on ‘both sides’ to come together on immigration reform as Democrats press for changes on controversial policy
Melania Trump’s spokeswoman has said the first lady “hates to see children separated from their families”, in a rare public statement at odds with her husband’s policy of separating children from their parents at the Mexico border.
Stephanie Grisham said the first lady believed “we need to be a country that follows all laws”, but also one “that governs with heart”. She added: “Mrs Trump … hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform.”
Former first lady Laura Bush has made a similar plea, writing in the Washington Post that a zero-tolerance policy was “cruel” and “immoral”. But unlike Melania Trump, Bush placed responsibility firmly on the Trump administration’s policy, not “both sides”.
“The reason for these separations is a zero-tolerance policy for their parents, who are accused of illegally crossing our borders,” she wrote.
Melania Trump’s intervention came as reports emerged of children being held in cages at a warehouse in Texas after being separated from their parents. One cage had 20 children inside.
Those conditions were reported by media briefly allowed into the facility by US Border Patrol. But Donald Trump’s secretary of homeland security, Kirstjen Neilsen, criticised what she called “misreporting” by politicians and the press.
Elaborating on her statement that “we do not have a policy of separating families at the border”, she tweeted: “DHS takes very seriously its duty to protect minors in our temporary custody from gangs, traffickers, criminals and abuse. We have continued the policy from previous administrations and will only separate if the child is in danger, there is no custodial relationship between ‘family’ members, or if the adult has broken a law.”
Melania Trump was joined in criticising the policy by a range of her husband’s allies, including the Rev Franklin Graham, who called it “disgraceful”, former White House communications director Anthony Scaramuicci, who said it was not “the Christian way” or “the American way”, and Republican senator Lindsey Graham, who said: “President Trump could stop this policy with a phone call.”
According to DHS figures, since the announcement of the “zero tolerance” policy by attorney general Jeff Sessions, almost 2,000 children have been separated from their families.
There is no law mandating separation of families. But White House policy is to maximize criminal prosecutions of people caught trying to enter the US illegally. That means more adults are jailed, pending trial, so children are removed from them. Before the Trump policy, many without a criminal record were referred for civil deportation, which generally did not break up families.
Amidst outcry, Donald Trump has stuck to the untrue claim that Democrats are to blame. On Saturday, the president tweeted: “Democrats can fix their forced family breakup at the Border by working with Republicans on new legislation, for a change! This is why we need more Republicans elected in November … ”
Trump has repeatedly referred to a Democratic law. He appears to be referring to one enacted in 2008 that was signed by a Republican president, George W Bush. It was focused on freeing and helping children who come to the border without a parent or guardian and did not call for family separation.
The president of the American Academy of Pediatrics warned this week that forcibly separating children from their parents is a traumatic experience that will cause “irreparable harm”. On Sunday, senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway told NBC’s Meet the Press: “As a mother, as a Catholic, as somebody who has a conscience … I will tell you that nobody likes this policy.”
Conway echoed Trump in saying Democrats must negotiate over immigration reform and border security. But when NBC host Chuck Todd said it “sounds like you’re holding the kids hostage to get the Democrats to the table”, Conway objected “very forcefully” and said: “I certainly don’t want anybody to use these kids as leverage.”
That was not what an unnamed White House official told the Washington Post this week, saying: “The thinking in the building is to force people to the table.”
The New York Times reported on Saturday that Stephen Miller, a hardliner who wrote the original travel ban on a list of Muslim-majority countries, is the chief driver of the separation policy.
As the president headed to his golf club on Sunday, Democrats staged protests at detention facilities. One party rising star, from Texas, said events at the border were the responsibility of all Americans.
“I’d like to say it’s un-American but it’s happening right now in America,” Beto O’Rourke, a US representative who in November will challenge Ted Cruz for his Senate seat, told CNN’s State of the Union. “It is on all of us, not just the Trump administration. This is on all of us.”
O’Rourke organized a march to Tornillo, Texas, and what has been described as a “tent structure” for 16- and 17-year-olds. Some had crossed the border on their own, O’Rourke told CNN. Others made the journey with their parents and then were forcibly taken away.
Those minors were now in Tornillo, he said, “with no idea no idea when or if they will see their mothers or their fathers, on this father’s day, again. This is inhumane. We will we be judged for what we do or what we fail to do now.”
The Oregon senator Jeff Merkley led a group to the border near McAllen and Brownsville, Texas. On the other side of the country, seven members of Congress visited an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Beto O’Rourke, a Texas Democrat running for Senate. Photograph: Courtesy of Beto for Senate
The group was denied entry for “over an hour”, they said, and police officers were called before they were allowed inside. At one point, New Jersey Democrat Bill Pascrell wrote, he and another member of Congress were “literally banging on the door to gain entry to the jail to see separated families”.
New York’s Jerry Nadler told press and protesters people inside were “like the majority of migrants traveling from Central America, who are fleeing violence that has been well documented. Parents fleeing such unspeakable violence will do almost anything they can to protect their children from that violence. Instead they are being welcomed by more terror.”
Earlier this week O’Rourke’s midterm opponent, Cruz, defended the Trump policy: “When you see reporters, when you see Democrats saying, ‘Don’t separate kids from their parents,’ what they’re really saying is don’t arrest illegal aliens.”
On Sunday, Cruz tweeted: “My dad has been my hero my whole life. Here’s to wishing a very happy #FathersDay to all the dads out there!” The Guardian